The Star, November 15, 1998

Woman sues orphanage for alleged abuse after adoption
By The Associated Press

HAMMOND, Ind.(AP) -- A lawsuit filed by a woman adopted 20 years ago from a Valparaiso orphanage alleges that she lived a hellish existence as a virtual sex slave in the home of a Tennessee minister and his wife.

The 12-page filing in U.S. District Court accuses the Baptist Children's Home and Family Ministries, both of Valparaiso, of failing to conduct background checks on Joseph and Evangeline Combs before placing the child in their care.

AP photo / Bristol Herald

CHARGED: Joseph D. Combs and his wife, Evangeline Combs, are escorted out of the Bristol Tennessee Police Department on Friday prior to being taken to the Sullivan County jail and charged with especially aggravated kidnapping. The former pastor and his wife kidnapped a baby girl from a children's home, then brainwashed her into believing God wanted her to be their family's servant, according to police. For much of 20 years, the girl served the couple and their four other children and was being physically and sexually abused by the couple, according to court documents.

The couple face criminal charges in Tennessee of kidnapping, child abuse and aggravated assault. Authorities there say the woman was abused for two decades.

Under the couple's care, the lawsuit alleges, the victim endured continued abuse through beatings and other physical abuse that left her with broken bones, dislocated joints and emotional scars.

"The circumstances in her home could not have been any worse," said Gregg Herman, the woman's attorney. "We hear the terms outrageous, horrific and egregious used quite often to describe situations. Those words are not strong enough to describe what this woman lived through."

The lawsuit claims that Joseph Combs sexually abused his adoptive daughter, who was kept as a "slave" in the couple's home.

It also alleges that Children's Home's operators never checked to make sure the adoption process had been completed.

No final order of adoption was obtained from the state.

Herman said the woman, who now lives in Michigan, will need several surgical procedures and years of counseling to overcome the physical and emotional trauma she suffered.

The Combses' 20-year-old son, David, has denied the charges of abuse. In addition to him, the couple have an adopted 21-year-old son and three other biological children. The youngest is 12.

The Combses lived in northwestern Indiana at the time of the adoption, but later moved to Bristol, Tenn., where Joseph Combs was the minister at the now-defunct Emmanuel Baptist Church.

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